After a nightmarish first season back with Honda in 2015, McLaren were getting somewhere. The Woking squad improved from ninth to sixth in the ’16 constructors’ championship and hopes of further progress this year were high. But the McLaren 2017 decline was sudden and they had to start from square one. Honda’s latest engine concept proved a retrograde step in both performance and reliability terms.
Boullier admitted that reality hit Fernando Alonso hard. He said, “As a competitor, he is making his mental preparation over the winter. And he is drawing in his head how the season should be, and that even motivates him more because he tries to stick to his own goals. So turning up in Barcelona, and having been backwards in terms of engine performance, it is a mix of sadness, humiliation and frustration. It is not good.”
After being taken out in Singapore, Alonso famously admitted that he punched a hole in the wall of his room in McLaren’s facility. Fernando had made a fantastic start and would have been 3rd in the first corner before the Ferrari-Red Bull tangle collected him. It would have been his most competitive race of the season.
Boullier spoke of the Singapore crash. He said, “Sometime he has to express his frustration, but he has been like in the past even winning races. He is so tense after a race. It was the same [in Singapore]. He has this rage inside him that he knows he can do better. He knows he can be the best. And he needs to show it. And I think if he wins, he will also punch a wall.”
Boullier is confident that the Spaniard will raise his game even further if McLaren can become a frontrunner again, as it hopes to do with Renault power in 2018. They will be aiming to avoid a repeat of the McLaren 2017 decline.
He said, “I always compare him to a shark. When he can sense the blood, he goes straight there. And that is why if he feels he can be on the podium or competitive enough to be there, he will not give up one inch to anybody. So the pressure on the team will be there, but it is a good pressure.”